Chandigarh, Friday, March 26, 1999
A woman with a difference
By Humra Quraishi
THE first time I had met Zoya Reikhy was about four years back, at one of the sangeet baithaks arranged at Anita Singhs home. Her down-to earth personality caught the immediate attention and we got talking. She told me how shed decided to come down from the USA and set up a pottery unit on the outskirts of Chandigarh.
A woman with a difference
THE first time I had met Zoya Reikhy was about four years back, at one of the sangeet baithaks arranged at Anita Singhs home. Her down-to earth personality caught the immediate attention and we got talking. She told me how shed decided to come down from the USA and set up a pottery unit on the outskirts of Chandigarh. With both my brother and I living abroad, my mother was alone here, so one of us had to come down. And so leaving a rather well-established set up built with a lot of struggle (had to work my tail off) she came right back, to begin the act of re-establishing herself.
Probably challenges have never bothered her, for in the 60s she broke the family tradition when she decided to enrol herself at Shantiniketans Kala Bhavan. And whilst still in the third year of the five-year course, she travelled still ahead and joined Philadelphias Moor College of Art and then later White Marsh Arts Centre. And whilst she changed her medium from sculpture to studio pottery she once again felt drawn towards Shantiniketan. Enrolling there again, and in the process meeting one of the mentors Dayalji, after a few years she once again went back to the USA. Only to finally return in 1991. And this time establishing herself with grit and determination enough to never wander back to the USA.
And last week as I got talking to her, at her first-ever exhibition in New Delhis Triveni Kala Sangam, she seemed more than equipped. For standing tall amidst her were her creations. In different sculptured forms, hues and colours, they were enough to show the dexterity of her hands converting simple clay to capable forms. She admits, I work best when I am under pressure, when I have a deadline to meet.
And though those years of struggle seem to be over, the way she stresses on them is enough to convey that to establish herself the going must have been very tough. But, then adds that when she had to establish herself at Mubarakpur (18 km off Chandigarh), the local potters (kumhars) and village people went out of their way to help her out. No, none of them felt apprehensive or threatened, rather it was touching to see how each one of them would help me out probably because I am very open by nature, so they realised that whatever I was doing was not secretive, rather creative and even to this help me out wholeheartedly.
Any eccentricities associated with her artistic tendencies?
Only that very often I am told that I dont look like an artist! Also, I tend to forget a lot.....I mean I get so engrossed in work that I get quite oblivious of what is happening around.....At times it leads to hilarious situations.
Probably her involvement with pottery has been so obsessive that she thought about marrying only three years back. Why I married late is because a woman like me needed a special person... and I decided to marry only when I met this special person.
And has marriage brought about distractions? The first year it did bring about the so-called distractions, but now it is the other way round. I am relaxed whilst I do my pottery for I know that there is someone who is earning the bread... I dont have to worry about all that!
In fact, she
neednt worry at all, for response on the opening
day of her exhibition was overwhelming and a large number
of her pieces got sold, that very day. And as she
pottered around them, with a glow on her face, she seemed
almost akin to a proud mother who is hovering around a
set of well-groomed children.
Ranjeets triple love
AN actor is an actor, says the eternal villain of Bollywood Ranjeet who seems to have turned a new leaf (image) with his cuddly cute adorable portrayal of rather gullible Khanna uncle in the popular sitcom Baat Ban Jaye. How and why the most un popular villain of the 70s and 80s fell into the predictable trap of Bollywoods making and couldnt break free of the typed mould, the actor himself cant figure out. Amritsar-born Gopal Bedi who acquired the screen name Ranjeet muses, I never manoeuvred my career.
Interestingly, his tryst with the silver screen had begun as the film brother of heroines in Sawaan Bhadon and Reshma aur Shera, The villainous streak which surfaced in super-hit Sharmilee was thereafter reinvented and rediscovered ad nauseam. The label had stuck. Reasons Ranjeet, Perhaps directors did not want to waste footage on establishing me in a different cast. A point came when I was thrown into unbelievable piquant situations which neither script nor the role demanded. In audiences lexicon, rape became synonymous with Ranjeet.
Then while other villains often relied upon additional propsheadgear, hideous scars, flowing beardsto enhance their evil instincts, Ranjeet appeared sinister enough sans the artificial mask. He reflects, I always felt that since villains possess a black heart deep within, they have all the more reason to paint a crystal clear demeanour.
Siding with the Satan, did he ever twitch with spasms of guilt for emitting wrong signals and for leading the audiences astray? He answers, Frankly speaking, while I was enacting out my parts I never delved deeply over the issue. But if you talk in terms of social obligation, I guess I have paid my debtfor truth to triumph, evil as a counter referral point must exist.
However, playing the baddie ad infinitum was bound to rub off on his public image. So strong was his on-screen persona that even if this non-smoker, teetotaller would be enjoying a cup of black coffee, bystanders around him would assume that he was having some wild forbidden concoction. He quips, Why, at social get-togethers women even refused to shake hands with me! Mercifully, his private personal life has remained unscathed. Not only his other half, but even his two children a son and a daughterrealise only too well that acting is just another profession.
Like all other professions, this apparently glamorous world of the bold and the beautiful too can turn dreary and monotonous. Recalls Ranjeet,After acting in 400 odd films, working night and day, four to five shifts around the clock, I finally felt smothered. So I decided to call it a day.
But once an actor always an actor. His system hasnt been completely flushed off the acting bug. He had come all the way to Chandigarh to shoot for Iqbal Dhillons magnum opus Shaheed Udham Singh in which he essays the part of Giani who subtly but surely influenced the martyrs life. Besides the TV serial, there are 10 films on the floor, but the disenchanted actor fretsnothing exciting though.
At the moment, writing, direction and production are his new-found triple love. Never mind the two bomb shells Gajab Tamasha and Karnaamaand that the aching realisation that film-making is an arduous complex process dependent upon so many extraneous factors. Apart from Akshay Sunil-starrer, AK-47, he is all set to weave a cinematic tale based on the life of a sculptor.
Whether the future will
resurrect this oh-so- despicable bad man as a
creative writer-director, he himself puts it poetically,
Kya pata aaya hai insaan yahankis ke liye, kismet
har ghadi badalti hai magar kis ke liye, zindagi bhar ka
yeh anjaan safar kis ke liye.
Anamika woos classes
THIS queen of catwalk is quite the opposite of what the conventional catwalk queens look like. Hardly 5 feet tall and plump, she is no model but the pop sensation, Anamika, who shot into fame with her very first music album Catwalk.
Anamika was in Ludhiana to perform as part of the promotion campaign by Escorts Yamaha Motors Limited for their newly launched four-stroke bike, Yamaha YBX. During a tete-a-tete with this writer, Anamika informed that this was her fourth live show in the city.
In spite of a string of hits behind her like Catwalk, Intezar et al and her latest number Kaala shah kaala... fast scaling the charts, this young pop sensation has her petite feet firmly on the terra-firma. She says, Singing was a hobby that eventually culminated into a career. I learnt Indian classical music for three years at Prayag Sangeet Sammelan. However, I had never thought of taking this up professionally. It was while I was doing a course in hotel management in the USA, that I got a chance to perform on stage, and from then on there was no looking back.
Anamika is one from the rare coterie of Indian pop singers who have to their credit of bringing out albums in more than one language. Currently her English number, One life to live... is a hot favourite with regular disco-goers along with her Punjabi number, Kaala shah kaala.... Not only is she a talented singer, she also writes the lyrics and composes the music for most of her songs.
When asked to comment on the general opinion about her live performances being one of the best, Anamika modestly says, While giving a live performance, one has to motivate the crowds and make them receptive. Only if one can take the audience to escalating heights with the music, the show will be a success. Till date Anamika has given 220 live performances in India and abroad.
Commenting on the current obsession of people with Punjabi music, she says, Punjabi music had always been at the forefront of the Indian music scene. Punjabi music with its foot-tapping beats has a kind of energy and life, which goes very well with all kinds of audiences. However, it is only recently that so many Punjabi singers have found recognition, she explains.
transition on the Indian pop music scene, feels the
pop star, is that now the music is not just for
masses, but also for the classes. Now the audience is
more intelligent and will not just accept any kind of
lyrics set to foot-tapping music. The lyrics should be
such that people can identify these with some of their
emotions. Anamika is currently working on a Punjabi
song, Nindran nahin aundiyan..., which will specifically
target the classes.
WE had very little idea my wife and I of how a fortnight-long visit by two old friends from Heidelberg in Germany, Susanne Hawkes and her husband, Leslie, was going to turn out. The personal pleasure of having them with us apart, we knew that Susanne was here on a mission: a gifted photographer, she wanted to photograph Indian trees.
One can think of countless places in India which one would associate with uncommon, picturesque trees. One can in fact even think of specific, great trees which have a certain renown, almost a history, at these places. But,no, Susanne was not necessarily after the uncommon or the picturesque: what she wanted to see was if the lives of common men and women, even in a relatively modern city like Chandigarh and its environs, continue to be entwined, as in the past of India around trees. At the very least, what awareness of trees existed here: not only of their sacredness, but of their place in life.
It was not going to be easy, one knew. Locating attractive, full-grown trees, the very names of which have a certain resonance in our culturethe pipal, the bar or bargad, the mango, the ashoka, for instancewas not difficult: what was likely to pose problems was the act of determining, visually, how trees and life grew together. Forone thought one knew it wellin modern life a marked distancing has come about: for the common man, the stresses of daily life are almost too much for him to be able to spare much thought for trees. But we were wrong. The more Susanne, with my wifes help and that of our friends, looked around and probed, the more it became evident that the feeling for trees was still strong; the aroma of sacredness still lingered on them in some manner.
Much happened in those two weeks. A lot of trees were seen and photographed; rituals centring upon them were observed; the unbroken rhythm of life around them was recorded; tales were heard and noted down. When the word spread among friends, and friends of friends, snippets of information started trickling in. Sporadically, at first, but thick and fast as the days went by.
A natural tree to photographfor it is the most easily identified and dramatic of all Indian trees was of course the bar, the ficus bengalensis of the botanists, the nyagrodha of ancient thought, with its magnificent proportions, and its mysterious aerial roots. But not many old and aged bar-s are around in these parts. Some distances were covered as news of old bar-s, in this village or along that route, started coming in.
Each day someonethe gardener, the peon, the domestic helpwould come up with fresh information about a large bar somewhere, and a plan of action would begin to be formed. There was excitement as stories of larger and still larger bar-s poured in: it was like news rushing in from different fronts on the battlefield. As soon as a hoary old bar had been photographed, another and still larger bar was reported.
Nothing did really match, however, the bar in a nearby village (Susannes secret still!), which was literally spread over close to three acres of land. I only saw the photographs that Susanne took, and these took your breath away. For this single tree with its ancient, time-scarred trunk had simply gone on expanding, for upwards of some 200 years perhaps, claiming more and more space as its aerial roots descended to the earth and became trunks in their own right, throwing out still more aerial roots, dense in foliage, enveloping everything around themselves.
Appropriately, it seemed, the villagers see their tree as something of an ancestor, a baba to be revered and approached with respect. Under this tree, sadhus had set up a dera, no one has ever been allowed by the community to cut any part of it; no fire is ever lit under it. Here, if nowhere else in the world, the tree is a part of everyones awareness. Here, tree and life grow together, it seems....
But where, one might well ask, does art come into all this? In the way that trees have been seen and rendered in our early sculptures and paintings, of course. With no emphasis on accuracy, but on feeling, on capturing as it were the souls of the objects. Images come crowding to the mind as one thinks of trees in Indian art: fertility deities in early terracottas; great luscious vrikshakas from Sanchi and Bharhut, deriving life from trees and imparting it to them in turn; sacred sandals resting upon thrones under trees, subtle reminders of great presences; languishing, love-lorn nayikas standing beneath trees which spread their branches almost protectively over them; trees glowing in the midst of dark landscapes, as if lit from within; and so on. As Susannes photography project proceeded, we spoke of these things, and more.